Lawmakers to vote on requiring sonogram before abortion

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on March 1, 2011 at 11:06 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 3:50 AM

DALLAS — A sonogram is the latest argument in the abortion debate.

"I can't imagine having a patient on the table in tears saying 'No, I don't want to see that picture. I don't want to hear a heartbeat. I don't want it.' And us having to say, 'But if you want this procedure you have to,'" explained Jenni Beaver, administrator at Southwestern Women's Surgery Center, Dallas County's largest abortion clinic.

Doctors routinely perform sonograms before every abortion to look for any abnormalities in a pregnancy.

But Texas lawmakers now want women awaiting abortions to be required to see that image, too — along with listening to the heartbeat if it's audible.

"The concern is, a lot of women don't want to see it, and they don't want to hear a heartbeat," Beaver said. "We know this because we hear them tell us that."

Texas already mandates doctors have a discussion with women about the abortion procedure and its risks.

Patients must also receive a packet discussing risks; get a separate booklet listing different agencies statewide that provide abortion alternatives like adoption; and then sign a sheet of paper verifying it all.

"Legislators are trying to use an ultrasound machine as a political tool to force women to view and hear it, whether they want to or not, to shame them into changing their mind, presumably," Planned Parenthood said in a statement. "Doctors, not politicians, should decide when an ultrasound is necessary."

The Texas Senate recently passed the bill.

On Wednesday morning, the House considers a different version.

Even if the legislation passes, abortion doctors said they doubt it will turn women away. But pro-life advocates said the sonogram is a powerful took that women wanting abortions should see.

"A lot of women when they actually see a sonogram understand the development of the child inside of them end up changing their minds," said Becky Visosky of the Catholic Pro-life Committee of North Texas.

The sonogram, Visosky said, provides women a clearer picture of the decision they face.

"For people who are out there saying 'This should all be about a woman's choice,' well, at least the woman should be armed with enough information to make that decision," she added.

The House version of the bill requires the sonogram be performed by either the doctor administering the abortion or a certified sonographer. In addition, the House bill also mandates that a woman wait at least 24 hours but not longer than 72 hours after getting a sonogram and before undergoing their abortion.

Beaver said that mandating who performs the sonogram will likely increase the procedure's price at an abortion clinic. Plus, requiring a delay between the sonogram and the abortion will likely prolong the mental anguish a woman faces.

Experts said close to 80,000 women get abortions in Texas every year.

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